As Michigan was beginning its comeback in Evanston, Ill. against Northwestern on Saturday, College of Engineering senior Jay Trzcinski walked to the front corner of the Michigan student section with an armful of hot dogs. At first, the crowd didn’t recognize him, but soon murmurs began. Then the crowd started chanting “Hot Dog Man.”
Trzcinski asked an usher for permission, and then began tossing the wieners into the crowd.
The crowd, as they say, went wild.
When Trzcinski finished his routine, a nearby police officer shook his hand and laughed.
But that hasn’t been what happened when Trzcinski has tried the same stunt at Michigan Stadium.
If he does the same thing at Saturday’s game against Eastern Michigan University, he could face a $50 fine and be banned from Michigan Stadium.
Trzcinski first made his mark during halftime of last year’s Michigan-Iowa game when he tossed a hot dog to a friend a few rows away. Trzcinski said he saw how fired up the crowd got when his friend made the catch. So he decided to take it to a new level.
He went to the concession stand, bought 10 hot dogs, returned to his seat and yelled, “Who wants a hot dog?” He then tossed the frankfurters into the cheering crowd.
But every time Trzcinski threw a hot dog, he violated a University Board of Regents’ ordinance that prohibits spectators from throwing objects in the stands of University athletic events.
The penalty for violating the ordinance is a fine of up to $50 and a misdemeanor charge.
Trzcinski said that after this year’s game against Oregon, an athletic department official warned him that each hot dog thrown would cost him $50 in fines.
That could put an end to Trzcinski’s antics.
“These hot dogs are expensive enough,” he said, referring to their $3 price tags.
The fines might not be the only price Trzcinski pays for throwing another hot dog in Michigan Stadium.
Trzcinski said he was told that if he performs his halftime antics again, he will lose his season tickets and won’t be allowed in the stadium again.
Rob Rademacher, the Athletic Department’s facilities manager, said this isn’t necessarily true.
“We’d have to evaluate it,” Rademacher said.
From the beginning, though, Trzcinski has gotten in trouble for his routine.
He said he was immediately escorted after throwing hot dogs during the fateful Iowa game, amid cheers of “let him stay” and “hot dog man.”
Getting away with throwing more hot dogs won’t be easy, though.
At the latest home game against Penn State University, Trzcinski said there were five extra ushers stationed outside his section during halftime. When Trzcinski came back from the concession stand with some hot dogs for himself, he said the ushers followed him all the way down to his row.
Trzcinski said he was surprised by the response of the stadium employees during the Northwestern hot dog toss. He performed the routine standing right next to a small group of ushers and police officers.
He said he asked an usher ahead of time if it would be OK, and he said the usher responded, “Why would that be a problem?”
After he was out of his five hot dogs – cut down from 10 because of the $4 price at Ryan Field – one of the police officers shook his hand and laughed.
The issue at the tightly packed Big House isn’t as much about a hot dog inflicting pain as it is keeping students from knocking people over, Rademacher said.
“The whole concern is it’s really just a safety factor (with) kids diving over each other to get them,” he said.
While Trzcinski said he understands that allowing his act to continue would mean that other people would have to be allowed to throw objects to avoid a double standard, he is still perplexed at the resistance.
“I’m just frustrated with the administration and their closed-mindedness,” he said.
One thing Trzcinski said he would do if he were allowed to keep throwing would be to restart the production of “Hot Dog Man” T-shirts.
Some of Trzcinski’s friends made yellow T-shirts with a hot dog caricature with arms and legs and the words “Hot Dog Man” emblazoned on the front.
They sold 60 of the shirts and donated the $300 profit to the American Cancer Society through Trzcinski’s Relay for Life team, he said. If they create new T-shirts, he said his friends are planning to add “Let Him Stay” on the back.
He said he doesn’t plan on throwing a hot dog anytime soon because he doesn’t want a criminal charge and wants to be able to cheer on Michigan during the big games at the end of the season.
He may have an alternative to throwing, though.
“If he wants to buy hot dogs and hand them out, that’s not a problem,” Rademacher said.
Trzcinski said he wished he could throw again because everyone around him keeps pressuring him to do it. He also loves the thrill of the toss and firing up the crowd.
“It’s just this crazy feeling that you’ve got all these people looking at you,” he said. “It’s unreal.”